When Paul proclaims, “God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17), he is offering a profound encouragement and a heartfelt challenge. Both this encouragement and challenge were initially meant to stir the Corinthian believers from a lackadaisical approach to their spiritual walk, but it also applies to our everyday circumstances even now.
Within that powerful declaration there are two clear messages from Paul. The first is a celebration of your deepest reality: In Christ you are holy. You are seen by God as such, and you have the glorious spiritual benefit of not only walking with Him now, but also walking into the fullness of eternity with Him.
However, the second message is a word of caution: a clear marker of participation in the temple is that you are intentionally pursuing holiness. When Paul says, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (v.16), he is issuing a subtle challenge. Much like when a loving parent asks their child, “Are you supposed to be doing that?” Or, if Paul were to say, “Have you forgotten that you are God’s temple? Because sometimes it’s a little hard to tell by how you’re acting.”
We need only look back to earlier in the chapter to see that Paul is concerned about the spiritual progress of the believers at Corinth: “For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ” (v.1). Paul seems both frustrated and genuinely concerned. The Corinthians were crawling when they should have been running.
I wonder how this passage first struck you in your reading today. Were you encouraged by being able to participate in the temple, encouraged that you are intimately connected to God and His people? Or were you challenged by Paul’s stern cautioning? Was there something in your spirit that quickly identified areas of your life where you need to pursue holiness and growth? Maybe it was a both/and situation for you. Paul certainly wanted both for his readers, and I’ve come to believe that God wants both for us today.
When you feel those waves of attack, telling you that you’ve lost your worth, lean into the reality of the temple. You are God’s servants: holy, redeemed, forgiven, and sent with a purpose. When you know you’re not investing what you should into your growth and relationship with God, heed the challenge and respond to the call. You’ve been set on a journey toward wholeness and holiness. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and refuse to falter! This is the way of a temple people.
Written by Andrew Stoddard